Sure, Vishal Walia and Gokul Murugesan would love to play during those sunny afternoons, the kind of days perfect for tennis where your hands don‚Äôt shake and griping the racket feels natural.
But guess what?
‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt wait for that,‚ÄĚ J.P. Stevens High School coach Ellen Pisano said. ‚ÄúThey just have to grind it out. Everybody‚Äôs on the same playing field.‚ÄĚ
No, teams must play in the wind and chill, and the Hawks passed their first Greater Middlesex Conference test with a 4-1 win over East Brunswick in a Red Division matchup on Wednesday. J.P. Stevens has captured three straight GMC Tournament titles, and this season, as usual, East Brunswick and South Brunswick are expected to provide the toughest challenges.
The Hawks, which play South Brunswick next week, staked their claim as the GMC team to beat in the early going Wednesday. There was little drama as J.P. Stevens won its four matches all in two sets. Pisano said she didn‚Äôt know what to expect, partly because the wind changes things.
‚ÄúThey all took a little bit of time today to adjust,‚ÄĚ Pisano said. ‚ÄúAnd once they were warmed up, they got their confidence and seemed to finish everybody off pretty quickly.‚ÄĚ
The most drama ‚ÄĒ and the longest match ‚ÄĒ came at first singles, where East Brunswick‚Äôs defending NJSIAA singles champion Josh Marchalik beat Walia 6-1, 7-6 (7-4). Walia led 4-1 in the second set before Marchalik rallied for the tie-break win with both teams and fans getting into it.
‚ÄúOnce you see Josh coming back, we‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėOh no. Here he comes,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Pisano said. ‚ÄúHe just has it. He just seems to play better when he‚Äôs down. ‚Ä¶ (Walia) didn‚Äôt play badly, but Josh just made less errors. It really was the errors chart today.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHe just doesn‚Äôt miss the ball. I‚Äôm happy I was just able to compete and fight, especially in the second set,‚ÄĚ Walia said.
At second singles, Murugesan had the fastest match of the day with a 6-1, 6-1 win. But ask the two J.P. Stevens senior captains if they like playing in the cold, and you‚Äôll get an answer in less than a second.
‚ÄúNo, I hate it,‚ÄĚ Walia said.
‚ÄúNo,‚ÄĚ Murugesan said. ‚ÄúWarmer‚Äôs definitely better. Even if it‚Äôs too hot, I‚Äôd rather play in hot weather than this weather.‚ÄĚ
Both noted the cold has tangible affects as opposed to just discomfort. Players, for example, have to control the shot better because the balls don‚Äôt soften up, and the speed of play tends to be slower.
The conditions aside, also getting wins Wednesday for J.P. Stevens were Alex Telson at third singles, Arjun Krishnan and Gouttham Chandrasekar at first doubles and Nihar Prabhala and Tarush Aneja at second doubles.
The Bears, meanwhile, have four newcomers to the varsity lineup. Coach Allison Clay is hopeful that this early experience will help her team once the warm-up sweatshirts come off.
‚ÄúWe have players who don‚Äôt really have much mental experience at the varsity level,‚ÄĚ Clay said. ‚ÄúSo there were some nerves that factored into today, especially because this is only our second match and it‚Äôs against a tough team. So I think that nerves definitely factored into that. But I think once they‚Äôve been able to gather additional playing experience that‚Äôs going to come to their benefit. ‚Ä¶ It‚Äôs good for us to receive this kind of competition early on to test us.‚ÄĚ
Singles: Josh Marchalik (EB) d. Vishal Walia 6-1, 7-6 (7-4); Gokul Murugesan (JP) d. Abhimav Bhamidipati 6-1, 6-1; Alex Telson (JP) d. Vikas Dalal 6-3, 6-2. Doubles: Arjun Krishnan and Gouttham Chandrasekar (JP) d. Harold Trakhman and Akshay Malavade 6-4, 6-2; Nihar Prabhala and Tarush Aneja (JP) d. Isaak Elkind and Chris Choy 6-1, 6-2. Records: J.P. Stevens 2-1, East Brunswick 1-1.